A friendly but critical approach is the need
The Chinese government had reasons to be worried about the over a yearlong political confrontation in Pakistan. The Chinese government was keen to find if there would be a continuity in policies under the PTI government. Beijing was bitter about the campaign against the BRI led by the US and wanted to find how the new government in Pakistan viewed CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor), considered a model project by China where it has already pledged $62billion. The complaints about the lack of transparency in CPEC and claims by the PTI that the previous government had committed corruption in every development project worried Beijing.
Meanwhile the Pakistani media and business community had raised a number of questions that the PML-N government had failed to answer. Nawaz Sharif, it was maintained, had been too excited about the proportions and promise of the CPEC and preferred to ignore the issue of the country’s ability to repay the debts. There were complaints that local investors were not provided the same privileges that were extended to their Chinese competitors, Pakistani labor and engineers too got fewer jobs and certain regions through which the CPEC passed failed to benefit from the project. A highly unequal trade between the two countries also added to worries.
Responding to one of China’s main concerns Foreign Minister Qureshi assured his counterpart at the joint press conference that CPEC would remain PTI government’s priority. Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured that Pakistan will always be a priority for China in its foreign policy. Addressing some of Pakistan’s concerns, he assured support for developing Pakistan’s industrial sector as well as increasing exports to China. He promised to broaden market access to Pakistan’s competitive agricultural products. The two sides, he said, will work to complete negotiations to improve the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) by the end of this year to further enhance the level of trade. Yi supported Pakistan’s positive role in regional cooperation. He also encouraged Pakistan to strengthen its relations with neighboring countries.
One hopes that in days to come attempts would be made to address Pakistan’s remaining concerns. Making CPEC an attractive project would be the best rebuttal to BRI’s critics.